How to Use a Coping Saw

Small yet mighty, a coping saw is the perfect tool for shaping molding or cutting holes. Learn how to complete both tasks with our step-by-step tutorial.

If you've ever installed molding, you know that one of the trickiest tasks is coping the joints. You'll need to use a special tool, called a coping saw, to ensure a snug fit in corners. The thin blade of lightweight coping saws makes them perfect for cutting curves and intricate designs. Coping saws aren't particularly difficult to use, but they can be a little intimidating. That's why we broke the process down into easy-to-follow steps for beginners and experts alike. As an added bonus, we'll also show you how to use a coping saw to cut a hole.

How to Use a Coping Saw

Step 1: Install the Blade

Install the saw's blade by setting the front edge on a sturdy surface and holding it so the handle points up. Attach one end of the blade to the spigot farthest from the handle. Then, press down on the handle to compress the frame so the other end of the blade can be attached. Release tension and adjust as needed.

Coping saw blades come in a variety of teeth sizes. For wood projects, you'll want to choose a coarse blade or those with 15 teeth or fewer. There are also high-carbon blades for cutting metal, helical blades for plastic, and wire blades for tile.

Step 2: Secure Material

Place the material you're cutting in a vise, or secure with clamps. This will prevent the wood from slipping as you cut it. To use clamps, simply open the clamp, place the material inside, and tighten.

Step 3: Trace and Cut

If desired, trace the line you plan to cut onto the wood. Then place the saw's central teeth at the start of the line. Push the saw in a short stroke to start the cut.

Step 4: Continue Sawing

Continue sawing perpendicular to the wood. As you cut, turn the handle as needed to follow your drawn path. If you're coping molding, you may need to make several passes and start at the opposite end to finish. Because coping saw blades are thin, it is possible they will break while you saw. If this happens, simply loosen the blade, replace, and tighten.

How to Cut a Hole with a Coping Saw

How to Use a Coping Saw to cut a circle

Step 1: Remove Blade

If the saw's blade is attached, remove it by squeezing the saw. This will release some of the tension and you'll be able to unhook each end of the blade. Place the blade in a secure location, as you'll need it again shortly.

Step 2: Trace and Drill

With a pencil, trace the area you want to cut. In the center of the drawn area, drill a hole. This hole will allow you to cut from the inside so that you don't have to make a cut through your material to get to the center.

Step 3: Reattach Blade

Pass the saw frame through the drilled hole. Reattach the blade by attaching one end of the blade to the spigot farthest from the handle. Press down to hook the other end of the blade to the saw. Adjust tension as needed.

Step 4: Cut Shape

With the saw blade, cut in from the drilled hole until you reach the edge of your traced shape. Start sawing until the entire traced area has been cut. If desired, lightly sand the edges of the cut area.

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